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Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



In.

And, "in," in the sense that I've already written my entry, and will sit on it for a few days and hopefully not forget to submit it.

So now I'll go back and read the last week's entries to see my this week's entry is so completely different to the millieu of the Thunderdome that I have to write a new entry. That I hope I don't forget to submit.

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Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Fleta Mcgurn posted:

Malus Domestica
1093 words

First, the language really didn't vibe with me. There was a lot of adverb use, "strangely" sticks out in my memory as a quite heinous example of this. The whole piece was strange, you really shouldn't be including the specific word, "strange," in here: the reader will get it (OR SO I THOUGHT!) There was generally lot of telling me what was happening rather than being evocative in language, with either a sense of the place (which was the second best thing about this) or the lyricism of the prose.

On the story front I had no sense of their love, either forbidden or the love felt between them, and so I couldn't feel her loss. Showing just their argument even further meant I couldn't feel her loss. Turning to smell a pillow is cliched, and you jumped away from your cliche rights when you went with incest (or step sibling love if we're going all Amazon self pub on this.)

I liked the idea you used of the imagery in her sights. The camera mention brought it up clumsily. As most photographers will tell you, you can't really capture images of inspired thought or at least it's extremely difficult. If you expounded on her seeing her memories of him, their love, or their rejection of societies mores I think it would give you more scope to elicit and emotional response in the reader.

The pacing was ok to kinda poor, but with a bit too much padding for writing not tight enough in general. I liked the way it meandered through her thoughts but you could either put more impetus on her journey through the house and memory, or you could go into more detail with each. You wrote what you did and I can appreciate that, but there's good ideas here that would really work better with more thought and effort put into them (don't revisit it unless you really want to.)

The ghostly door was trite, there should be a better reason for her to explore their history in the house, but I did like the sense of life and a reason for their betraying society with their passion, it's just you didn't show their passion. Ultimately that twist of magical reasoning was shown too early. If you kept that back, leveled the foreshadowing of it enough to build tension, and then really hit it with a high note plot point it could have rescued this piece of sibling boning flash fic.

Hawklad posted:

Fleta McGurn - Malus Domestica

Okay so the ghost of her twin brother/lover comes back in the form of a plaster apple tree and either saves her from the heat wave or kills her so she can be with him. I guess it's sort of interesting that they are twins and also lovers but boy do you have to tread lightly with that. I never developed any sympathy at all for Marina, she's not a like-able character, so I'm not really rooting for this relationship to work out. There was a long section of exposition in the middle that tuned me out. I also didn't get the significance of the apple tree. Why apples?

I really, really dislike this critique. The story was clumsy, and I haven't read any of the others but I wouldn't argue with a DM. What I would argue with is your disbelief of Fleta McGurn's choice of story. It is not supposed to be a beginning/middle/end tale. For me Fleta is trying to evoke a sense of loss (which they failed at,) and you're caught up with ghosts? Let go, man. You can't understand someone's loss, or what they go through when they do lose the love of their life. Fleta tried something in describing that feeling, with a bit of magic thrown in and a dodgy ending about embraces that are thoroughly undeserved. Instead you're worried about rooting for characters or relationships? That's great if you're reading a pulp spaceship adventure, but this story is about the experience of loss not lightsabres, good guys to cheer for and bad guys to boo. It's pretty obvious by the end the brother lover is dead (at least in non-Ent form,) so why are you rooting for a relationship?

My worry is that this could have been a really great, evocative account of the madness in loss and you'd be worried about the main character not being likable in their pain. Thoroughly deserving of a DM, but for me you have the wrong reasons for it in your critique.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



N. Senada posted:

Weather Forecast: Dust Storm
Flash:One of your characters is extremely wealthy


Osmond Diaz, King of Kings
870 words

I'd never heard of the original this is based on, but it tells like a basic fairy tale. Your writing is simplistic to the point of prosaicism. It's wish fulfillment: arrogant man gets his comeuppance, with a side of a servant doing a little dance about his death. From the moment I started reading it I was predicting what would happen next. Would the arrogant Supremity be brought low? Or would a pitiful servant be punished for ignoring his boss? The story ended with the great lord dead, and everyone cheered.

I think you have a few choices to make with a story like this. My first feeling was obviously channeling the origins of the literary idea, poetry. It could work very well in the poetic form. Either as outright poetry (a mini-epic if such a thing exists,) or as prose-poetry with the to and fro and quality of words making up for the simplistic message of the story. With those you're either looking for the structure of the poetic form to lift you, or the movement of verse-like writing. I'd imagine the formal poetry to be easier to sell to a reader, even if it takes a lot of thought to write. Any prose-like poetry can be very hit and miss depending on the reader.

Another choice you could make is to turn it into a children's story. Bad man deserves a bad thing happening to him, which happens. All the peasants rejoice. Which is what happened. However your turn of phrase puts it outside of any particular age group. You could make it for a young age, and if you could make it fun for the adult reading it to the child you'd be one story into a well selling anthology. You could make it for the 8-11 market, but you'd have to tighten the language to writing that's accessible but also pushes the reader. A bit of nastiness in the imagery would be nice without going for shocking gore. I don't think this would work for any age group between tween and YA (11-14 is definitely a respected market for authors by now) but it could work as the outline of a broader story. Tell the tale of the conquering of the lands, his bad deeds, and his dismissal of local lore about the harshness of the area's climate. Ecological arrogance destroys the destroyer and saves the people.

Where you did go with it didn't work. Your language was stilted, and didn't draw me in. It has a surface level message that doesn't need or warrant any consideration so it can't work on that level with punchy, direct prose. It could work if it was evocative, but you'd have to really get into the destructive force of the dust storm, the shattering windows, the despair of the servant at the sludgy water, the concern with abandoning the Lord for fear of retribution (he's survived so far!)

I'd work on the pacing of the writing at a paragraph level. Dedicate each paragraph to a single thought, theme or feeling. Don't jump around with multiple thoughts or concerns with each, rather dedicate it to a single, strong image or feeling you want to create for the reader. Long winding sentences that bring the reader to grandness before leading into short, staccato direct messages could really work with the whirling nature of a storm with the power to destroy. Rapid fire concerns from the servant could show his anxiety at the situation and at thoughts of leaving his master, before they wind down to calmed, regular sentences with his relief at getting away from a despot. Bold, strong words changing to weak pleading would work for his Supremeness being laid low.

For me you didn't create any image beyond cartoon simplicity, but in that sense I could picture what was happening even if what I pictured was from a low budget animation factory. I think a simple story like this is an opportunity to play around with your prose and style as it leaves you space to focus on thematic concerns rather than storytelling (or getting your ideas out within a wordcount.) If I was you I would (I wouldn't, I'd totally write something new) I would try putting this story into different forms with different stylistic touches that drive the simple premise. It's really hard to take an extremely simple tale and turn it into magic. Writing with surface level simplicity and accessibility has the power to become extremely important as literature, but it is probably the hardest thing to do. Or it is for me, at least.

Edit:

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

Actually, I do! Mrenda's critique was quite a bit more helpful. :downs:

In fairness to Hawklad he was critiquing every story submitted, so giving short responses to them is all anyone can expect. The only reason I did your story over anyone else's was because it looked to be easily readable from the paragraph structure. And the reason I just did N. Senada's was because it was the next story. I had no clue when I started either that one was a DM and one is getting a new avatar.

It has been pointed out to me, repeatedly, that this type of up front debate over interpretations isn't really a TD thing, so I'll be careful not to jump in in future. The Dorkroom (The other CC forum) is a great community that's really helped me with my photography. It's especially good for being really straight up about any discussion or thoughts on someone's art so I jumped in with both feet at the prospect of serious writing talk. Another reason is I go to a poetry night where it's really difficult to get a discussion involving more than, "I really liked your poem," "me too." I know I wouldn't write a critique for every story, let alone an in depth, fully aware critique, so fair play to Hawklad for that, and fair play for winning the week before (so he has to do it, I think.)

Mrenda fucked around with this message at 06:37 on Dec 14, 2016

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Hawklad posted:

I'll brawl with Mrenda. Reading 17,167 of your lovely garbage words in about three hours (while at work) and then writing brilliant, detailed, and incisive critiques (as I did) should be all the preparation I need. :toxx: me.

edit: and no worries Fleta

Cool. I'll do a word war if manufactured literary beef is what drives this place. I've been awake all night so I can't do it today, and I'm spending about eight hours traveling with yet more hours in a waiting toom tomorrow but I can get to it Friday/Saturdayish, presuming I don't "gently caress it" and write, edit and post my response in a sleep deprived fit of confidence.

It just seems a bit delicate for me. "Dishonourable" mentions for bad writing with requests to front up like we have to entertain millions of manbabies so people call for a :toxx: based on my one post in a year. Aren't I supposed to work my way up the card? I could never have imagined robust discussion and critique would call for a ladder match between the last TD Winner and single entry DM.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Erogenous Beef posted:

Prompt: Hail

Frozen Out (1,057 words)

I enjoyed this. Although I felt you had more fun writing the build up to Esther's dastardly plan than the climax and resolution of it, purely because I had more fun reading that part. The beginning section was bright, and although the puns and smartness annoyed me at first seeing you commit to it made me commit to it. The same goes for the immediate child orientated language which carried well as I got into the story, although there did seem to be a few lapses in the succinctness in and style of your prose.

The second section felt forced. It seemed like you were rushing in the plot rather than playing with tropes, words and expectations. The expectations part is based on my own surprise at the direction the story was taking as I got into the writing, countered by the lack of freshness to the idea in the second part once I'd bitten. If you were to continue the newness or keep my surprise through the rest of the story I imagine you'd need more words/room to work up to giggle giving, rather than going for quickfire funniness that sometimes felt unearned. I'd also liked to have seen more time dedicated to highlighting the strain Frosty was under, as well as the problems the town was facing. Past the first third it seemed rushed, and I don't think it's a case of focusing too much on scene setting and build up which felt right, rather you attempting too much story in your wordcount.

The final part was problematic in that it seemed a little forced although it's entirely possible that's imposed on me by regional knowledge. I'm not familiar with woodchucks (sorry, Phil,) so I didn't get the intricacies of Frosty's summoning ritual. The Snapchat line did stand out for me as a let down. I can understand the desire to have our world as a humorous call while showing an alternate and fantastical reality, but I'm not sure if Snapchat has the cultural capital to work at a level that is universal enough. That includes a cold, "snap," snapchat as I'm still not sure if such wordplay was intended seeing as it didn't immediately connect for me, and it's only through this writing I've seen it. I doubt even a Google product, at least any beyond gmail would have enough significance in common recognition to carry the disconnect that's powering the joke (I'm guessing Esther clung to hotmail.)

Something that was nice was the characterisation of both Frosty and Papa Winter. You used their anthropomorphised caricature well while still giving them more personality than that wit their problems. I didn't get that with Esther, "what's her motivation, EB? Why is she doing this to Freezytown?" I'd also liked to have seen more from Frosty's secretary, but given my thoughts on the word limit that would probably be too much.

Ultimately I did enjoy it. It was an easy read that flowed well with nothing dropping me out of the story completely once I knew what the intent was and could buy into it. I would like to see it worked into a slightly longer, fuller story that allowed you polish it up. And it's definitely the type of story I'd want to see more of in writer's circles; charming, airy and playful without going for biting satire or all out HAHAs! It's a refreshing story. And more importantly it was fun to read.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Okua posted:

Ash - 857 words
Weather: Tornado
Flash: Story must involve a small dog

(*Edited only because I forgot wordcount*).

I wasn't a fan of this. The clashes between my ideas of nature, wind and the air and the personification of them you wrote were too strong, this was further compounded by the writing not holding to one particular style. Overall I'd say the writing was unambitious rather than bad. You had an idea and played it safe with your language and directness rather than allowing an emotion or feeling develop, even if that emotion was just in highlighting how arbitrary the wind is (as an example.)

The language was direct and simple, with a few flourishes of style and some failures. "I soared and lifted all the things I had destroyed with me," this stood out as a lack of naturalness and awareness in the language you chose, a naturalness that should really be evident when writing about something that is a dominating earthly force. "I soared and lift with me all the things I had destroyed," might have given it that element of gravitas I really wanted to go with a story about something as profoundly large as the drive of air and its power on man, beast and land.

One of the big contrasts that occurred to me, that I didn't see you drive home was the relationship between the wind as a self-aware body but still working as part of a greater order. You wrote of how it is powered by the sun and sea, yet it still understands and takes credit for what it metes upon the world. This contrast between something with power to inflict, yet still controlled by other forces would have been great to see. It took credit for scattering the dog to the world, almost as a funereal rite but the passivity in how the story was written didn't hold against the pride the wind had in honouring his friend.

If you're going to write about a process as impacting as wind, something that's worn down mountains, and driven waves across oceans then I really want to understand why it's concerned about one dog, or the awesomeness of it's omniscience in knowing all, and inflicting it's desires.

For me this was too grand an idea for the writing you put to it. It's an ambitious story without ambitious language. I thought you almost had it with the direct style; detached and cold but you didn't hold it throughout the story so it didn't work. It was a brave decision to go with writing from the wind's perspective, making it a god but the language you used didn't reflect the grandness of such a thing, give it credence as a god like entity, or even humble it as simply another actor in an earthly dance.

I'd love to read this story, or another like it from you where you really strive to do justice with your prose. It might take risking a new avatar, but it seems like a risk worth it to do justice for the ambition you had in telling this story.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



The Jester's Sickness
833 Words

Were people entitled to a job, to earn a living, have a roof over their head and have money to buy Jenny another baby loving shower present? Jenny had offered to hire her for the eldest’s birthday, at half the rate on her website. “For a friend,” was the plea. Marie was tempted to take it.

She adjusted her red nose. A degree in the performing arts, two off-Broadway performances (Five Stars in the New York Times), and now she was adjusting her giant clown honker in her clapped out Toyota. She could barely manage to get bookings and all this to buy a charm bracelet for Jenny rich-bitch Murray’s new poo poo machine.



They were standing at the door.

“You’re late,” the mother said.
“We said three,” the father said.
“Four.” Marie knew it was four.
“We texted this morning, we told you this. Alton gets tired. We told you the time could change. You said you’d worked with children like mine before.”

A sick nine year old, and she’d hosed up the time. Marie could feel the heat beneath her cheap makeup. This was her fourth gig in eight months. Word of mouth hadn’t worked. She had to take the job. She knew she could fake it for an hour. But there were no phones allowed at the reading. It had a chance of going into production, even touring. It would pay her well while this clown gig would buy spoiled Jenny Murray a 13 carat gold bracelet for the newest vomit-monster she was only having for eventual child support.

“Alton is nine today?”
“He’s mature. It’s aged him.”
“How many children came?”
“Just one. He hasn’t spent much time in school to make friends.” His father said. “Sally, his little cousin.”

He put his arm around the mother who turned away. Sandra knew the dampness cloying beneath her layered makeup didn’t compare to what was welling in the father’s eyes.

“Go in, please. And be careful.”
Marie smiled. “It’s ok.”

The parents stepped aside. Passing the doorway a chlorine smell, sterility she associated with the elderly burned at her nose. She breathed deeply, clamped her jaw tight and turned towards the room that held the sick, young boy. Nodding her head side to side she passed a wave down her neck, through her torso and out to her limbs to loosen her body. She burst through the door, arched her neck with her head high and screamed like a demented penguin, “TICKLE ATTACK!”

His skin was a deep, rich yellow, and one of the oxygen tanks had tubes hooked under his nose. His eyes drooped and his head nodded.

“Tickle Sally.” He pointed with a half raised arm and curled fist. Sally looked scared.

“Clown tickle!” Marie grabbed her stomach, collapsed to the ground writhing and struggling against herself. “No arm! NO TICKLES!” Marie thrashed. “You’re my own arm!”

Sally screamed.

Parents came running.

Marie scrambled to her feet and started doing star jumps. The parents were all over their child.

What the gently caress was she doing here?

“She was sick,” Sally said.

Marie slumped as one last star jump drained from her. The parents were crowding Alton as he halfheartedly tried to fight them off. He was wheezing.

“I’m sorry...” Marie said.
“What’s wrong, Alton?” The mother asked.
“Did you fit?” The father asked.
“It was me. I think Sally thought--” Marie said.
“He’s tired.” The father adjusted the oxygen tap on the tank.

Marie stepped back towards the door and something solid cracked beneath her foot. Alton shouted out and pushed at his mother.

“My Medea!”

“Oh my god, I didn’t mean to.” Marie fell to her knees and picked up the Lego figure she had just destroyed. A chariot with dragons, and a woman were snapped in half. The chariot a dedicated model with thin, delicate parts. “I’m sorry, Alton.” She said it without even looking at him. Why did she say she could do this? She was a poo poo clown, never-mind performing for a death’s-door child.

“I wanted to read to Sally, Mom! Not a crappy clown.” He was really fighting now. His mother ignored him and walked to her handbag draped over the couch under a framed Wicked poster.

“We’ll write you a cheque." There was no urgency as she searched through her purse.

There were more posters; The Crucible and A Streetcar, Hamlet in London hung next to the Phantom poster.

“It’s not your fault, we shouldn’t have expected you to--”

The bookshelves were lined with plays; Euripedes, Beckett, Pinter. The child struggled against his father to get to his destroyed Lego theatre set.

“But, soft!” Marie took off her red nose as she rose from the child’s broken toy. “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

The young, sick boy’s eyes rested as he sat back into his chair. "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon."

Marie’s chest filled as she saw his breathing calm.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



sebmojo posted:

you had one job

I jumped back ten pages and there's a 1,170 word entry for a 1,100 word limit that isn't an issue. If that's not the case, and there's no 5/10% leeway thing going it's not an issue for me.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



flerp posted:

1146 words

acid rain

Pray for Rain

The ending of this really helped bring it up a level for me. It wasn't amazing writing, but I did feel his loss. The first two thirds didn't convince me, and I was expecting a let down of an ending but you really up'ed the level of feeling with your final few paragraphs.

I think a big problem with it was how matter of fact it all was, and that could be purely because it's your style of writing. It really worked for the ending where he was making simple wishes, his love taken from him and with no real hope left, but it didn't work for the beginning establishing his connection with her. Despite that I did get a sense of the character of the woman. Her going out during the night to draw was a nice touch, even if the writing and their emotion and connection surrounding the "moment" didn't draw me in.

I would love to have seen some passion in here. It was all a bit too detached for me. It could be something as obvious as a call to a lustful spark (with a fade to black,) a morning exhausted from a driven night, showing his hopes for a future shared with her, or even by increasing the level of romance in the language.

There's two contrasting aspects that could be changed with the flat language. You could have his memories set in his current loss, showing how he's looking back on what's gone and how it seems so distant so that's why it comes across as flat. Or you could increase the amount of flashbacks he had, as the limited amount of memories didn't let me see any depth in their relationship.

The very beginning didn't work for me. I understand how you wanted to establish at the beginning his relationship with the rain but it seemed throwaway at that point (again could be a language problem) and it was confirmed as throwaway for me when you established the significance of the rain at other points in the story. You went a bit too far in including the weather, like you really wanted to make it the stand out feature rather than their relationship and his loss which is what I was more concerned about.

The ending lifted it and I did feel his loss but because you didn't establish a full relationship either with a progression of their love, or any passion it came across as somewhat hollow. Ultimately I was left with the feeling that he never really had her, or wasn't really into her. For me you needed to better establish he is always distant, and she was the only redeeming element to his life, or he has really lost his love. That you could get a connected feeling out of me after I went most of the way through the story without much engagement shows me you're close to what you want to achieve. Maybe a bit more analysis, some beta readers, or sitting on it a bit longer to read with fresh eyes would help you go back to it able to inject that passion because that ending really deserves the first two thirds to live up to what it managed.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



llamaguccii posted:

Unfinished Sketch

Weather Forecast: Overcast Skies
Work Count: 821

I actually quite enjoyed the writing in this. The flat tone really brought across his indifference, however it didn't translate over to an emotional connection for me of his malaise. He seemed dead to life, but it wasn't an emotional connection I was having with him, rather an intellectual understanding that this is a person who's given up on his past. This definitely contrasted with the presentation at the beginning of his time in the closet. A flashback doesn't seem right for someone bringing an emotional disconnect to a situation where he's about to leave for good.

Mostly I felt that I wasn't looking at any conflict. The decision for the protagonist already seems to have been made. He's leaving, he knows that, and there's no internal debate. With that in mind the whole the story comes across as very bland. There's no impetus for the reader to take anything from the story. If you had shown him engaging with his brother more, and his brothers kids and wife(?) and him debating the morality of playing along with their troubles and concerns knowing he wouldn't see them again it would have added a level of disturbance to his thought: of doubt.

There was no debate for the character, it was like he was passing through something and was placing no pressure on what went on around him. He didn't need anything, or want anything: he didn't want to make a mark on his soon-to-be-abandoned past. If I had seen that earlier in the story, if I knew his decision from the off I might have loaded his thoughts and actions with my own worry, possibly even anger at what he was about to do to his remaining family, and what he was about to do to himself by cutting something off. Instead I was waiting for the hook. At the end you put in the "twist." Ok, he's running away, I just don't care about that. I can't retroactively ascribe any mixed emotions, or doubt to what he's been through in his mind. It left me cold throughout, wondering the point.

In that sense I did see his distance. But me acknowledging his distance by the end doesn't turn it into an, "Aha!" moment, it just reinforces my thoughts that I didn't care about him, and even pushes me to think there's no reason I should care about him.

I liked the brother. That he did care for him, and was willing to take time off and leave his family to ensure his sibling would be ok. That's a great hook for the story. A brother looking to care for someone, something he's always done (or possibly only discovered since he had his own family, or via the realisation that their parental support is gone, whatever,) the protagonist knowing his brother does care for him but his past alienation being too overwhelming to acknowledge what his brother is doing for him. The history of his own experience not allowing him to engage with the very thing he's always wanted: a connection to the place he comes from, a connection to who he is.

I think the writing was quite good, at least by the standards of the (few) other stories I read. There was a nice even pace to it. The imagery wasn't amazing, and there were a couple of turns of phrase that seemed clunky but you definitely managed to capture the feel of "grey skies," and in that sense the piece was extremely appropriate in the spirit of the prompt. However you still need engagement from the reader. Grey skies (and thus your story) aren't and shouldn't be a neutral encounter, they can be foreboding, oppressive, or in the case with your story, and uneasy boundary between good and bad, hope and loss, and two different states that necessitate a choice. The choice seems to have been made by the protagonist as we start the story, and it's how he makes the decision to leave his past that makes this story interesting, not the grey feeling he goes through once the decision has been made.

Edit: I didn't mean to post this. I'm quoting the stories to get the BB Code markup and must have submitted it without realising. It'll go back up in a new post after judgement.

Second Edit: I did mean to post this. But I got yelled at on IRC and panicked.

Mrenda fucked around with this message at 04:42 on Dec 19, 2016

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



I started crit'ing the stories as they came. I have a response to about half of them. I did notice something come up in the first few stories. It was enough for me to write something up before the rest came in. Some of what did come in after didn't fall foul to this and managed to achieve funny ineptness, but a few stories made me so goddamn angry! GRRR! that I'm gonna post this anyway.

All the crits I'll post were written in the order of the stories, and what I'll post in the next few minutes were all written before reading the next story. Then I had to get a bus so I read the remaining ones while journeying: journeying with both my body and imagination.

General Observations On You Heartless Motherfuckers
Something I really didn’t anticipate from the other TD entries, not that I tried to anticipate anything was what other people would do with their story. I had enough difficulty coming up with my own, enough that when I did get it I went with it and was definitely going to work hard on it before I posted it. That’s all to say I was wrapped up in my own writing and didn’t think of the other pieces. If I had given it a few seconds thought I’m not too sure if I would have immediately associated “inept” and “in over your head” with lots of laughs. I suppose I should think that given it’s a comedy forum founded on generalised shitposting and this thread is founded on men in tights throwing chairs.

I do try and be funny in conversation, and in chats, and individual posts but I’m not too sure I’ve gone for it much in my fiction writing. This could be because comedy doesn’t seem noble and writerly, but I think it’s more to do with the risk I see in intentionally telling a prolonged funny story (future brawl setters take note.)

Comedy demands a lot from people. If someone tells me they felt really sad reading something I wrote I don’t feel cheated if they weren’t crying. If someone tells me my writing inspired thought in them then I don’t ask them if they shouted, “Eureka.” But if someone says they thought a story I told was funny then my expectation is that they had a physical response, and laughed out loud or at least smiled. That may very well be simplistic and asking too much of humour. Though the most serious of humour, the harshest of satire has caused me to at least smile, even if its more a wince.

More than that I feel a little offended that some writers immediately thought of ineptitude as a humourous thing. There’s plenty of times I have felt inept, and sure looking back on those times I often realise I can laugh at it now. Whatever the tense of a story it sets the reader in the present of the situation unless you go with some very specific tactics. In that sense when I think of being present to ineptitude I think of embarrassment on another’s behalf with me having to watch, or I think of my own despair. If I’m failing really badly at something I felt I could do I want the ground to swallow me. Instead time draws itself out to prolong my torment as I hope others don’t laugh.

Writing comedy for ineptitude is absolutely the right choice, in that it’s your choice. I just wonder if you’ve heard of empathy you cruel fuckwads. And that’s kind of my point. If I’m going to laugh at someone I also want to feel for them in some way, or get joy from their aresholey downfall. I don’t want a basic lol at someone loving up, it seems a bit simplistic.

Jagermonster posted:

Ride of the White Knight
780 words

I appreciate the effort Justin went to to write this up while he was in the hospital. It might have made it more immediate in first person present tense, as the past tense kept me removed from your difficult situation.

The language is far too simplistic to be evocative, and I'm not too sure if there can be style in something so elementary. In that sense I really connected with the writing as reflective of the strawman white knight. The problem with writing a strawman like this, especially when going the humourous route is that you need to make me think of the protagonist's complex and not the author's fantasies. This piece of writing has me questioning you rather than the characters or situation.

You seem to be aiming for farce and satire, and I can say that I have met one person like this in my life, unfortunately you didn't give Justin the emotional depth I knew from my real life encounter. It's very hard to see beyond him as a throwaway judgement of society, when I know there's more to people than what you've presented here.

I thought it was a good decision not to present the reason for the (ex) couple's argument. It showed he jumped at an opportunity without waiting to see how she would like the situation handled.

A lot of what happened was written out directly. You ignored allusion, and didn’t leave the reader to fill in gaps with their own imagination, and the entire encounter was told directly with straight up explanation. It’s horrible to say something so basic but you need to focus on showing not telling. A good way to do that is to go back through it and replace the sound effects with description: not description of the sound, but the description of the effect of what caused the sound, and how that made Justin feel or respond; his pain, worry, anger, something emotive and descriptive would work (unless you want to keep Justin really detached.)

Watch how you run things like "Pain coursed down Justin's spine into the pit of the stomach." I can't picture a connection between my spine and stomach, it just doesn't feel right. Similarly, "punctured like an inflated balloon" the balloon is inflated, not punctured. I can see what you're going for but the comparison of the simile is way too imprecise.

Overall I get the impression you tried to write this from the mind of Justin, and that necessitated simplistic language, and direct presentation of the situation. Unfortunately it just made for a simplistic, and plain bad story. It had me laughing but more at it than with it. If you’re going to get inside the characters head and write his perspective it needs to be established clearly you’re doing this. Instead I just thought it a poor story that left me halfway between thinking “Justin’s a moron,” and “The author is has a simplistic style and take on things.”

Hawklad posted:

Tribal Wisdom
793 words

I sort of enjoyed this but in spite how smart and self-aware of its cliches it is, and mainly because of the quality of your writing. It's perilously close to being too self ware. It is very much a comedy forum post that feels like you're aping other media, and stories and conventions too much for me to really buy into it. And it's a rather trite aping of them for a cheap joke, one worthy of Adam Sandler (or Mel Brooks at his tired, and out-dated worst.) Ultimately it was the sharpness of the writing and how well you tell it all that allowed me enjoy it.

The first half to two thirds was so much of a setup that I felt like there wouldn't ever be a point to the story. The writing is decent at giving you a lot of information and it gave it in the genre's cliched voice, which is good. The problem is the genre is bad in the first place no matter how well you do it. Also the amount of information needed for me to buy into it is too much. This means my reading time and the demands on me was too much. You had to shoehorn in a backstory for what was ultimately a pretty simplistic joke.

The joke is ok: he calls a rescue team in a post apocalyptic world who are happy to save him. I understand a bureaucracy valuing one of their own because they are one of their own and valuing themselves more than actually doing good for people. As well as a dumb guy getting saved after what I presume is his underestimation of the people he's trying to save. But I expect more from satire than the obvious: possibly because outright comedy is asking for a lot from a reader and so fails harder when it doesn't achieve it. If you want to go for obvious comedy then it needs to be inventively told, and while your writing was good the writing wasn't inventive comedically. All the humour were direct and in-your-face and just a bit too blunt for me.

If we're talking about the story then it's emotionally dead despite being well written. If you're going to go for humour you need some pathos. I didn't really care for the "tribes" situation, or the protagonist. In that way the turn to humour didn't pay off because I had no expectation. I was waiting to engage rather than having my engagement surprised. At no point did I worry for anyone, or feel for their plight so to see it's all a bit of a joke has no effect on me. If the whole thing was a vehicle for a twist and a laugh then its vehicle is a low budget sketch show with cheap props, no-thought cinematography and bad acting. It really did feel like you took a basic "screenplay" and added descriptive writing around it, however good that writing is.

As I said, the writing is good and you captured what you set out to do well, which I can only give kudos for. It's what you set out to capture that leaves me empty.

Chili posted:

Week 228 - Unqualified

Dangling - 725 Words

This is a critique of your story, but it's also generalised towards something I've noticed in other stories in Thunderdome. The author's the writing being representative of the protagonist (or a particular trope) to the exclusion of other aspects of storytelling.

The first story I wrote for thunderdome (one of two, so far) was definitely me experimenting. Experimentation I conducted out of arrogance in my storytelling chops. It was about a journalist going to interview a director (writer?) famous for his chaotic lifestyle and disregard for protocol. The writer turned up, and was dropped into a whirlwind of activity where they couldn't figure out what was going. If I recall correctly a dog was being buried and the interviewee was possibly plotting to murder a toddler, I can't really recall. Ultimately it got a DM and I still believe that Thunderdome is a pile of poo poo where no-one gets true art, let alone my art! Also it was hard to follow, hard on the reader and made little sense. The writing was supposed to confuse, with the people and situation difficult to track.* I felt if the writing could emulate my intent then it would work as a story. I think this is a mistake quite a few people are making, at least in my eyes.

I understand you're really trying to get inside the character in this story. I can see that the payoff is that he's analytic and lacking in real life experience. He reliant on book learning and incapable of reaching the best conclusion for a situation rather he gets to one objectively correct solution for a theoretical situation. You did very well in getting that across through the writing's analytic and dry tone, and the portrayal of his actions and thoughts. It's all done with skill. However that doesn't drag me through a story, or send me out the end thinking, "Wow, that was a great read!" Or a sad read, or thoughtful, I hated that rear end in a top hat of a mechanic, or... It feels more like I'm reading a writing exercise attempting a technical take on giving the prose a situational voice appropriate to a character. There's no ups or downs, no changes in the story to change me. No modification of tempo, or language. It's all a bit flat.

Going through this I wasn't taken by the situation. I had no reason to care for the inept griffin tamer. I don't have to care for him, but I do have to have a response in someway. Especially in a short story where everything is valuable and you can't spend time taking me on a writer's detour through flights of experimental fancy and indulgence. You wrote for the payoff of "He's analytic and unprepared." You wrote the "inept" prompt rather than taking the prompt and bringing me through a story based on the prompt. It's a good take on the prompt, but the story doesn't have value for me beyond "Yes, he is bad at what he does by being a book learnin' thick" with the writing representative of a "book learnin' thick."

There are a huge amount of things you can do, but the first is you need to involve the reader, and then call on the reader to have a response. A big problem with this story was again something others have problems with, you're trying to pay people off at the end with a twist or a joke. Stories shouldn't be about punchlines unless you're telling a joke (and even then a lot of humour has changed from that these days,) and it shouldn't be about a grand reveal unless you're writing a mystery. And even then what makes something a good mystery is that each part of the story involves the reader. It could have them worried for the protagonist, doubting another character's motivation, or trying to piece a new clue into the overall puzzle.

To go back to specifics about your story again there was a lot of explanation from the protagonist about his situation, and that goes back to giving him too much voice. Him explaining his situation may very well be how he's thinking, but I don't want someone else's thoughts laid out for me, I have my own thoughts and they range from headwreckingly dumb, to oppressively boring and frankly frightening when they're not incredibly dull. It gets even worse when I share my thoughts with others. I want you to take me on a journey. Your story was someone objectively explaining their situation to themselves, but I'm not interested in someone explaining why they're in a situation, or thinking about what they're going to do next. It doesn't matter how representative of the character's persona the writing is even if it captures it very well, and this is a big TD problem I've seen from the limited amount of stories I've read. I want to see why they're in the situation, what brought them to it, and what will happen once they make a decision about a course of action. If you take it to the next level I want to see some aspect of the human condition explored (or the alien, or dog, or desert prairie condition explored.) You jumped straight to exploring an aspect of humanity without giving me a story or the exciting language it could rest on.

So yes, you did very much capture your characters approach with the story, I just didn't engage with him, or the story very much. This isn't to say this is something you're doing worse than everyone else rather I've written quite a few reviews that should have said this or I've tried to say it. Seeing it another time with your story just caused me to identify my thought better.


*I've done something similar recently, and actually submitted it to journals but I think it has merit should it ever find a home because of the lengths I go to with it. It's about 1,000 words of pure stream of consciousness madness and if anyone ever does publish it I'll be called a genius (or locked up.)

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Entenzahn posted:

But I smiled
794 words

This is a really nice story to tell, and I appreciate you tackled an emotional situation that had an ending that pays out with some hope. I think you could have approached it differently though, and it's entirely based on how you chose to tell the story rather than the writing of it.

The writing was fine, there were a few sentences I thought could be broken up. The narrating of his internal monologue had sentences long enough that I disconnected at times. In a tough situation I can't imagine that level of coherency of thought unless someone is drifting off from reality, being taken away from the immediate situation as they delve inside themselves. In that sense I can see how he's less likely to interrupt the boy, but I wished there was more of the child in the story.

Pretty much the entire story was someone thinking to themselves. They were telling themselves how the boy was unhappy, and how they wouldn't enjoy Christmas. It wasn't a surprise it was about death, so it shouldn't be an issue that I presumed it. Instead I'd have preferred to have seen the child's detachment and frailty. I'd like to have seen the boy being distant from Christmas which is really a holiday for children (young and old,) and how the uncle attempted to bring some festivity to him.

Instead you stayed inside someone's mind which is very hard to do. Most people I know have dealt with a significant death. It may not be a child's parents, but it could be a sudden death, or a traumatic death. To capture someone's thoughts in such a situation is a huge undertaking. Even after years trying to understand the associated thoughts few people can, let alone write these thoughts in a manner that others appreciate, and in this case write a man's thoughts on his responsibility and care for a child. I think you would have done much better describing the actions associated with such a mindset, implying the thoughts that go with it with the occasional dip into the uncles mind. Instead of outlining what the uncle was thinking give us the situation and let us imagine what he's going through. Have confidence in your writing, that you can give the reader a tough situation and the reader will fill in the details of the struggle.

Well done for taking on such a big topic. It's just I would have (or at least I hope I would have) tackled it differently. You deserve credit for approaching it.

Benny Profane posted:

The Entertainment
799 words

The best bit about this was that it was about wanking and his name was Johnson. Ha ha ha.

I understand he's a stuffy academic, and I understand most author's inclination to have esteemed professorial dildos speak with the wordiliture of suitably renowned hoity toitedness. But it comes across as trite, and a lazy shortcut. Even when you're playing it off against his "balls," comments. I guess that is what this entire piece is though, dick jokes and on that level it works.

As far as wanking stories go, it is one of the better ones I've read. I don't understand how they're glued to the VR thingies after finding the wank setting, but they leave them to go play cards? Is that a recuperation/stamina/chafing thing?

Again, this falls under a final joke based story, but I appreciated it more because things happen. They go to different rooms, they have actual conversations that tell you things rather than advancing you towards the punchline (which was a nice callback to the beginning.) This type of humour is a pleasant read, even though it's not inventive, or playing with any ideas.

In one sense it achieves by being well written and actually telling a story in an appropriate manner. For me I wonder about the point of it. It's not a story that asks questions, evokes, or asks me to think about something which is what I'd look for in good short fiction. Although for a 3am read after drinking far too much coffee and writing far too many words about other stories it's a nice bit of refreshment.

I would like to have seen a bit of tension in there. Even him fretting about the inspection a bit more, or worry about the cost of failure. It doesn't need to be a super serious worry, just enough for me to care (or laugh at him) if/when it all goes wrong.

Finally, good job on the dick allusions, it must have been fun putting them in there.

Baleful Osmium Sea posted:

wordcount: 797

Turning Lock

I think I have this figured out. She's crap at her job, or at least she's good but doesn't have the ability to do what she wants to do, so fucks up a lot. She keeps trying though, despite getting in poo poo. Then she does something (I'm not sure what,) and makes a video for her school application that her supervisor agrees to to because he's sick of her loving about with his machines?

I think that's what happened because the actual progression of the story is clunky. One thing leads to another semantically, but I have to work really hard to figure out how each story relevant sentence relates to the previous one. It could be because you've brought in sci-fi, and sci-fi I'm not familiar with that it's so unclear for what to me is a simple story with a simple sc- fi'ish idea: exo-skeletons/suits that can be programmed to move without people in them, but they sometimes do have people in them. Was she moving them with people in them, because there were legs being ripped off but no blood or screaming.

I think you've told a story that could work, but you're relying on strange/alien/advanced technology to make it interesting. The story needs to ride more on what is happening than military/industrial shouting and jargon, and exoskeletons to make it interesting. And that's even more the case when the sci-fi elements only serve to confuse what's happening.

The characters seem a bit two dimensional. I didn't see any depth to them, or motivation or emotion. It was a bit flat in that sense like people reading cue cards. I did enjoy the interaction between Linda and Jackie, they might not have been plumbing the depths of emotional relationships in their dialogue, but it was a relatively pleasant if simplistic example of people caring for each other.

Finally you switch between plain language and wordiness without consideration for where you're using the words among the other words. They're the right words sure, they mean what you intend them to mean, but they seemed out of place in their context.

Erogenous Beef posted:

A Change of Mind (800w)

The beginning of this was nicer than the end, and the middle nicer than the beginning. There was also a nice bit of hubris that saw them all fall for not giving the private his well deserved new mop.

I nearly turned off with sci-fi language. Seeing it straight away makes me turn off, thankfully you fell into easily understood terms after the beginning of the story. It was minimal use and just enough to run the story on, so it worked out for me.

The funnies carried it, which is what you were going for. But the end was a let down. I expected a horrific experience, with humour, but the wordcount didn't allow you to go into detail so I was hoping Mr. Mop's redemption would keep me happy. Him destroying his great glorious mop was a disappointment. If he became a legend, a lowly private mopping up those who wage war and get blood everywhere it would be nice. If hubris brings people low, then the lowliest should rise.

The feeling like part of his arm was a let down as well. Make him mecha-mop-man. Turn him into the great mop of vengeance. Do something for him, because in the end he didn't get his new mop and that's not fair. You teased me, and just like the crew are mad or dead, I'm disappointed.

Ultimately you did a lot for an overt attempt at funny story, but it didn't say much about anything. That means authors rarely win awards or get big literary kudos for funniness because it seems base and simplistic however hard it is, and however talented you need to be to achieve it. So I'll give you kudos. It did make me smile, and I believe there was one proper laugh out loud from me. It's a well written contained story, but as I've said humour is generally held to a high standard, and ending on a bum note (at least for me) hurts it.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



flerp posted:

800 words

In some mythologies, the whole world is on the back of a turtle which is pretty cool

I really like this and so far, having critiqued everything in order I hope you win. And that's despite the problems with your story, and in some ways because you did what others have tried to do but managed to balance it with nice craft.

First off, there's not much story, which is bad. But you pull off this internal questioning and thought because you set Johnny in the physical place he's in well, and you place him in a mental state very well. There's a nice description of what's around him, the description of a rather tame apocalypse is evocative. The fact he's talking to something and thinking about how it won't respond, and you describe its actions means there's more to the story than just him. Both of the apocalypse's effect and the turtle set a lone character in the situation that is more than just his thinking.

Your writing also has tone to it. It's meandering, and in some ways has the resignation that I see in Johnny. It's all too late for him, he's made his choice and he accepts it: doubts and all. That's reflected in the lack of urgency in the word choice and pacing. I also felt the writing was a little stupefied, in some ways it represents his realisation that he's doomed. I did say that writing in the style of a character is mostly bad, but that's negated by the world having a feeling to it beyond the one character's thoughts and impressions. You've given the world some life in me, the reader, beyond what Johnny sees in it.

It does seem unedited, and there's quite a few mistakes. I praised that it meanders, but the repeated "ands" go a bit too heavy in that direction. There's other editing mistakes in there as well, which isn't good for what I think is a pretty great piece of writing. I don't know if this is a separate issue, the same part of the editing/lazy proofing problem, or I hope it's not a dialect thing because there were some turns of phrase that didn't read very well for me, "then drove his car down the side of Half Moon Bay, looking out over the cliffs and watching the waves lap over the sand." I can understand it, but it seems like rushed writing that you didn't correct rather than spelling mistakes, or repeating "ands." And that's the big problem with this, it's not tight enough in the writing despite being quite evocative.

I think it's the best attempt I've read so far, even if it did miss the prompt a little for me. I'm not too sure I'd call someone inept at surviving an apocalypse: you can have a zombie escape plan but really, when it happens you're gonna poo your pants. I'd really like to have seen you put more effort into. It's a good story but it seems rushed. Rushing it might have paid off in letting you be more free with it, but other people worked to tighten up what they wanted to write, your writing worked in spite of the lack of tightness but it would work better with a tightness.

Finally, I don’t know if you’re trying to tie the title into some grand commentary, but it doesn’t add to the story for me.

Sitting Here posted:

One-Sided Conversation
800 words

I really enjoyed this. It had me going by the end of the assault/murder/theft scene. Her unbridled desire to complete the cipher and what she'd do for it made me want to see what she'd get from it for risking(?) killing a man for a piece of it. I do think being really inept at not being a criminal is pushing the prompt. Or being really inept at handling mental illness. Or that not knowing you're a synaesthesic kleptomaniac is a sign of being really bad at life.

I started out wanting to know the point of the cipher, or if we were in a fantasy world where certain people have magical powers, but not knowing these things, or at least not knowing the surrounding setting of this is nice. It's really a piece of writing that doesn't set out to explore a world, or idea, instead it presents a feeling. Finishing it I was satisfied with simply having experienced it, even without it asking something from me. It was an experience, and one I enjoyed.

With that in mind I do think you can address your language choice. You used big, precise words and they didn't seem forced in to show off a vocabulary. When you said "germinate" I doubted, but to tie that straight into the cipher taking root I appreciated it. It's a simple trick of language that added depth, without it ever being relevant to the story. However I would use a change in your language style to address the flow of the piece. Your choice of words could address the change of mindset in the protagonist. At the beginning she's calm, or reasonably so. If the word choice could be more relaxed at that point, with a change towards a different style rather than just using the descriptive words best suited to the immediate situation it would be better. I think by changing the complexity of your language, subtly it could indicate a change of thought or feeling in the character. A writerly analogy would be how a writer emulates the style of a really good story they've read (I do this in pretty much every critique,) if someone is hanging around with people they want to impress they might use grandiose language if they're insecure, if they're around someone they've fallen for the might use romantic or poetic turns of phrase. I think it would really help add an extra dimension to this because at the moment the largess of the language is constant throughout and it detracts from the change in the character.

The choice of first person present tense really worked as well. It's something I'll definitely try to add to my own writing (and I have a story in mind.)

Overall, It was a really good, but for me it feels so far from and does so little to address the prompt I can't give it a top marks out of ten.

***

And that ends my stayed-up-all-night-writing-while-waiting-for-the-results-only-to-be-disqualified-for-a-small-bit-of-breaking-the-rules crit marathon. I'll probably do the rest after I get some sleep. (I really stayed up because I lost track of time and was pounding coffee at 1am so sleep wouldn't have happened anyway until about 5am, but the writing was enjoyable-ish.)

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



crabrock posted:

:siren: Hawklad vs. Mrenda Brawl

The Source
1,447 Words

The waters began turning foul two centuries ago. This river was one of the few to run clean again years after nature cursed the planet. The illnesses began appearing thirty years later: at least the cases the investigators cared to identify. They refused to acknowledge the disappearances Jen had found: disappearances she knew were caused by the infection before medicine was aware of the disease. Bodies washed up scarred and broken, destroyed and cursed, infected by the same process that turned the rivers.

Those old autopsies held the details; faces torn apart, broken fingernails and bloodied fingers; more than damage from river streams hurling bodies over rocks. The autopsy reports proved it. The scarring was the same. They'd ripped at themselves with feverish hallucinations before wading into water for relief from the heat that overtook them. All the cases could be traced to the fresh water. Once she’d found signs of infection in the latest cases' lungs she knew she could find the algae at this river.

“Pick it up!” If she managed to dig ticks from her face and keep walking they could move faster. She knew why they hesitated. The local’s warnings were dire: myths of journeying to the new water’s source heralding tragedy. Fearful legends of simple people.

“Hurry! You signed up for this. Your honour rides on this!” The locals still traded on notions of duty and honour. She knew both well. Duty to methods, and investigation. Honour in progression. A future in discovery.

This river’s source held the key to what turned the earth’s freshwater foul and what would make it good again. She could protect what was left of life’s presence on the planet. Professor O’Malley’s research signposted it all: she would prove both their legacies.

“Professor!” Carol called out.
“Are they still trying to stall?” Jen asked.
“They’ve been showing me rashes, and bites.”
“They should wash their clothing.”
“They’re afraid of the water,” Carol said. “They claim it causes the rash.”
Jen lifted up the sleeve of her shirt. “Show them this! Show them your arms, and your legs. We’re rash free because we wash our clothes. Tell them with a firm voice! If you can manage.” It caused the fever, not a rash, but this river was newly fresh. It had only two infections per million people. No-one cared to look until the infection rate was higher: by then the water was already cursed to sour again.
“It’s not about the locals.” Carol said. “The storm’s turned towards us.”
“How bad?”
“Oceanic. Nine hours from here and it’ll take three days to pass.”
“If there’s enough rain to rest on the topsoil we could be waiting two weeks for any bloom to return.”
“All three models are predicting it.” It was encouraging that Carol looked upset at the delay.
“We’ll move to the next clearing and take preliminary samples.”
“That clearing is six hours away. It’s not worth--”
“I’m sure you can explain to me why getting samples at that clearing is important.” Jen hadn’t planned on stopping there, but this would get Carol practised on the equipment one more time before it mattered.
“The clearing’s beneath the ridge,” Carol said.
“And?”
“The samples beneath the step are a baseline for the river’s source.” Questioning her would push Carol to be the researcher Jen knew she could be. It’s what O’Malley did for her; test her, force her to consider.
“Why a baseline? Jen asked.
“The river's spring is in shadow and the closer the baseline to the springs the better--”
“And oceanic storms are problematic because?”
“The soil needs to--”
“Because the fate of billions rests on our work. Which means I need uncontaminated samples.” Did O’Malley have difficulty hiding his smile when he did this to her? And used she get her answers as wrong as Carol?
“We push on.”
“Yes, Professor.”
“And fetch me the repellent.”

Jen knew she was harsh, she had to be. There would be outrage at continuing to the clearing with the storm so close. Jen had the responsibility to lead and that meant it was her duty to encourage. Carol would lead one day but not if she was nursed. She had to prioritise. Carol had to want to fight for her work.

***

“Stop giving them the bloody bug spray,” Jen said. “They’ve built an immunity to the common jungle infections. We haven’t.“
“It doesn’t seem right. They’re being bitten all over.”
“They can put up with the bites. They wouldn’t have any repellent at home. We’re not civilising anyone, they’re being paid well and they sacrifice as part of this team.”
“Are you sure you should go alone?” Carol asked. Jen would have to force those concerns out of Carol if she was ever to lead.
“There’s an eight hour break in the storm. I can make it to the river in less than three.”
“What if the storm blows up before--”
“When you’re in my position you’ll realise time to think is rare.” Jen said. “And we’ve spent almost two days hunkered down. I need to move. It’s claustrophobic here.”

***

Jen inhaled deeply.

To have found it with such ease! She knew it was luck, but it was her planning, her driving them that ensured they had that luck. Now it was time to remember him and remember what he gave her: what she would give the world.

Jen took another drag. Three years since her last field trip and her last smoke, thirty years since her advisor sat down with her by a river in an unexplored forest just like this one and rolled her that big, celebratory joint. She laughed at how surprised she was; how straight laced she was then, how naive.

Placing the roach on the flattest ridge of the outcrop Jen struggled out of her wet shirt. She was older now than he was then, but she’d found her proof and felt so close to the young, excited postgrad she used to be.

He’d been strict. He made her angry like no-one else. But most of all he made her determined. It was his research that gave her this. If it wasn’t for his work on the cavern algae she would never have made the connection. If he hadn’t pushed her to her limits, driving her right to the point of quitting she would never have solved the whole loving planet’s freshwater problem!

Fumbling with the buttons on her khakis Jen slid off her pants and stepped into water. It was as oppressively hot and humid as that day with O’Malley: a nice synchronicity to life. The past rippling out and flowing just like water. Jen waded as far out as she dared.

What an honour! To be the senior researcher when Professor O’Malley found the freshwater algae contaminating the water. And now she’d identified samples of the opposite markers near a new freshwater river. She’d done it! Proof that nature balanced against itself, and she could process her samples to turn water clean again. She’d found the earth's self-created, natural solution. Jen splashed herself to cool.

He’d pushed her, and now she would prove her greatness. Eight failed expeditions and each time she promised herself a smoke and an hour in its river if her research came right. Eight expeditions where she’d been denied the memory of that naked afternoon beneath the water. All those rumours of what they did. Few believed they played like children high on his life’s work and her future: high on scientific discovery.

She’d take one hour in the water to remember him, then she’d tell Carol. She pushed Carol like he pushed her. Carol would prove her legacy like she did his.

Jen dived beneath the cool stream. The pound of stress she’d felt since the storm slowed their progress washed away with the fresh river water she had secured for the world.

***

Carol nodded. “It’s her.”
“Do you need some time?” The attendant asked.
“We weren’t close.” She was a complete bitch.
“Her family will be glad. Some never turn up.”
“She has no family. She was focused on glory.” Carol leaned in to look at her former professor’s face. Even in death she looked pissed off at her.
“The fever?” Carol asked.
“Self-inflicted wounds.” He pointed. “But not as bad as I’ve seen. She probably drowned before the fever reached its height.”
“The river was full, it must have washed her away before the worst of it.”
“That’s something. The hallucinations are horrific.” Carol guessed she had seen more infection cases than the mortuary attendant.
“Is there anything else you need? My students are waiting.” Carol checked her watch. “The world won’t save itself.”

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Farchanter posted:

We've All Been There
Word count: 689

A lot of this goes back to my generalised commentary about ineptitude meaning more to me than farce. The problem I found with this was the level of ineptitude necessary to bring about the farce. This was a guy who'd been to some technical college, he'd been placed on a magnificent ship and he's so incapable he doesn't know which buttons to press? You set him up as a complete moron that can't even read numbers, so how did he graduate? I'm sure there's plenty of people in good positions who are incapable, but they've been promoted into, become outdated for the situation, or they've benefited from some form of nepotism.

The accessibility of the buttons was another problem. Why would the area he was in have access to a button that could shut down the whole ship? If that is available to anyone it's hidden behind failsafes, either human failsafes needing a certain rank to initiate the process or two people to verify the operation. It wasn't funny enough or outlandish enough for the stupidity of the character.

Some of the language didn't work for me, hovering like a "majestic eagle," made me think of something ready to swoop, at war readiness or preparing for assault, not a ship that has a moron handling things. The ship being "dead," made me think the worst had already happened, not that they had time to rescue the situation. A reference to emergency power along with the countdown clock would have helped.

The dude has definitely hosed up, and the fate of the ship rests on his ability to rescue the situation, and you wrote the idiot quite well. You captured his stupidity well, but the setting didn't seem right. If everyone knows he's incapable of even calling the right department on the communications system why are they entrusting the entire ship to him? He should really be sent to his room with no dinner, and given how well you've written his getting everything wrong I can easily imagine you writing him messing up cutlery usage.

It definitely did go wrong for him, but so wrong it stretched all thoughts of what's believable. A comedy of errors for me is predicated on things going wrong for someone trying to make things right, and then seeing how his thinking is flawed, but understandably flawed, rather than this where we're just looking at an idiot who's in a position rather unbelievably.

Thranguy posted:

Empty

797 words

The first time I read this I really didn't enjoy it. I thought it was far too plain, and the allusions you were making to torment of the angel and eventually the cook didn't carry weight enough to add any sense of doom, or punishment. The cook will make a mistake? So he will be punished? Yet, I didn't feel like there was any punishment coming because I wasn't engaged with what would be deserving of punishment. The language was dull and dry in an attempt to carry weight. The angel was passing through it all taking no notice of his confinement, having no reaction so I couldn't feel for any eventuality that could come to pass, inevitable or not.

Then you got the HM, so I decided to reread it to see what I had missed and I tried to take more from it. Overall my issue is what seems like a problem that faces a lot inauspicious, unestablished authors: someone presuming less intent from the author because no-one has held you up as worthy of literary criticism. I definitely feel it with my own writing, that people don't take the time with my writing or my intent because no-one has said it's worth that time. There are definitely published authors who struggle with writing a basic story, so to look at someone's work with thoughts of allusions to the nature of man, and humanity's relationship with nature and free will is just not typical, at least not for me. It needs to be signposted that the author has that intent, or I'll look at it as a crappy story about eating an angel, and not a bigger commentary.

All that being said, if I look at the idea of the throne being empty as a commentary on the death of god, of a vacuum of morality it does show me how an angel could be captured in the first place. What I didn't appreciate was the angel biding his time, waiting for the cook to make a mistake. There's no sense of the passage of time as he waits, just descriptions of what has happened. I think you'd need to show the angel's peace with the situation more overtly, rather than what I read which was resignation at the situation. I was expecting a fight from him, in whatever form. That fight is presented in his knowledge that the cook will make a mistake, and he's just waiting for that retribution, but I needed that information earlier in the story. It seems like the angel's foreknowledge is the point rather than a godless universe and what that entails (i.e. what you allude to, and how I would interpret a world where angels are felled and eaten)

If I had that earlier I think I might be more inclined to worry about the arrogance of the cook, and Zargas's arrogance in looking for power. If the throne is empty it means someone has done the unthinkable and killed God. That shouldn't happen, and even Zargas doesn't seem to believe it because then his fight is pointless. There is no god, there is no power to take, he already has anything that can be achieved. The world is now without purpose, or there is freedom for someone to establish purpose.

I feel like it's very loose on the prompt as well. I don't see ineptitude in not knowing how to carve an angel, or in eventually being cursed for it. That's part of humanity, and in many ways what the whole of the bible is about, man's ability to choose and fall or turn from something, or to rise to it. If the cook is inept we don't see this choice, apart from the money aspect which seems a little petty for something I've decided to read as treating life's purpose.

If this is about the nature of humanity then what I can take from it is that we're doomed, we will make a mistake, we will spend an eternity suffered. What is the God we've killed? Why is the throne empty? You don't provide any answer to that, or even a suggestion of an area to look at for an answer. It could be read as nihilism, but it goes back to the angel's passivity versus the cooks industry. Humans are industrious (as were the fallen angels.) I don't buy the idea that work has now failed people, or effort, or struggle. I think it's that struggle that defines who we are, but also is the point. This whole piece seems to be calling for a predestination that erodes our choice, suggesting an inevitability (the angel only seeing what's inevitable.) It might suggest a hopelessness, but because it wasn't thematically consistent in that suggestion I don't buy it. And that goes back to the point you reveal the "point."

If you did try and address such a huge topic that I'm looking for now, then fair fucks to you. Far more people should try that. It's arrogant, and it might be unnecessary for a lot of readers but I enjoy the idea of putting it all on the line rather than just telling a story. Kudos to you. I'll try and read more stories with the idea that they are attempting a grander commentary.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Thanks, all three of you for the crits. Getting a few of them in, each approaching the crit in different ways has definitely helped me. So this is a self-report/critique of how I wrote the story and what these crits have helped show me I need to work on.

Sebmojo has really hit home with what he said in one line. I do feel confidence in my language: it's not a weak spot for me, or at least it's not the area I would focus my improvement efforts on first. I don't have a record breaking vocabulary but I faith in my ability to work the language I do have, especially given time to edit and take out any naff phrasing on each passes. That highlights the other problem, of, "strains for a seriousness it doesn’t really earn." That to me is about combining the words I have with hitting appropriate story points and intention at the right time. I've worked on pacing language, and lyricism but that won't make up for managing the ups and downs, and getting a reader reaction from the progression of the story.

The other element of Sebmojo's crit, the seriousness of the story is in a big way my own reaction to ineptitude. In my crits I've spoken about comedy being undervalued by the literary world, but also being seen as a bigger failure when it falls flat and that in part may have sent me in the opposite direction with my story. By trying for that element of humour but having it in the face of something serious like illness I need to have an insight into what is more universal for that situation. In that way STS's comment about the character's performance as a clown and her barriers to improving her clowning, relates to how I did intend for her to be a decent actor but I didn't think about why she couldn't clown, or didn't put effort into it. If I had done that then maybe I could have written a more convincing bit of bad clowning, rather than simply running with plain inept clowning that had no logic.

With that in mind what I think I've taken most from all the crits is to spend more time on blocking the story. I don't know if I'll go so far as outlining every plot point, rather once I have a general idea of the story I could then work out the emotional (or intellectual) response I want from each part of the story as it progresses. My writing up to The Jester's Sickness has been about the actual writing of a story idea as best I can, rather than a focus on the story. I was getting words down for an idea rather than working on the idea to the point where I wasn't reliant on just the words. I won't go into my brawl story as it's not judged yet but I did approach it more in line with what I've outlined just now, and I can see from the response I can and should take that approach further.

Separately, something I can see from Flerp's critique is how I try and understand the reader, and this is a valuable element of how I turn that idea of a story into the story I write with language. You can't really write for every reader and sacrifice your intent, but you also can't force your reader to work for every part of your story, piecing together a lot of smaller elements to make sense of the overall story (I also read about this with a le Guin review of a Margaret Atwood book just a few hours ago.) For me that means that I really need to work on layering in my stories, with smaller elements that enhance an interested reader, rather than punishing them with confusion as a "bad reader" (and thus really punishing me and my story) if they don't feel that level of engagement is justified by the main thrust of the writing.

So thank you all for the super helpful crits. The brawl started it and now these crits have all added to my thinking on how I can change my approach to writing (or at least any writing beyond shitposts.)

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



In.

And I'll take the 100 word crit bounty. If there's someone I haven't done a crit for let me know by tomorrow (GMT) morning and I'll crit your piece specifically. Otherwise I'll just make my way through the rest of last week's stories. And I'm opening a bottle of wine so praise and/or hate might be as flowing as the Merlot.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Jagermonster posted:

no don't do this

it was fine when you were commenting on a crit of another writer's story, thereby giving that writer more nuanced feedback

but don't do this poo poo for your own stories, not here

I wrote a statement of intent for my latest TD story. I can post that here if you want.

I'm not arguing with crits of my stories. Or saying people don't get my glorious art. I was acknowledging the very helpful critique and trying to show the other writers in here that with a bit of thought it's possible to integrate these critiques in a formal manner into your writing process. I understand people want this type of response posted in the Fiction Advice thread, but it's not fiction advice I'm responding to, it's Thunderdome specific work. I'd have to quote posts from here to there to keep a thread of coherency. Although that absolutely is something I can do.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



flerp posted:

800 words

In some mythologies, the whole world is on the back of a turtle which is pretty cool

Bounty 2 - A drawing of a dude on a beach with a turtle, where everything is grey and the world is about to end.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



sebmojo posted:

quote whatever you need to and put it in fiction advice

Will do. Hopefully it'll pick up a bit in activity.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Christmas to Forget
1,500 Words

Alison could hear the bass rumble of her old haunt. It was usually only graduation day they turned off the noise dampeners, letting the music infect the streets. Any other Christmas they wouldn’t even open. It was supposed to be a day for closeness, sharing, and families debating the same tired arguments. She hoped no-one was arguing today.

The beginning of their climb brought her back to the moment.

“You couldn’t spend the day with her?” Alison asked.

“No.” His voice was calm. She didn’t want to coax any worries from him, not today. Still, she reached out and held onto his arm.

“She’s young. She wouldn’t understand it,” he said. “Me being there would only upset her.”

His eyes cast over the rise of steps they used run up only a decade ago. Alison didn’t know if she could manage the climb with dignity but she didn’t care about breathlessness and sweat anymore. She wouldn’t have another morning to be tired, or sore.

“I know you want to be with her,” Alison said. “You’re a good man.” Saying it was important.

His stride broke.

“She’ll never climb these steps,” he said. “Celebrating her birthday stopping at every pub for a beer. She’ll never be barred from Hammond’s for lining up the same song on the jukebox twelve times in a row.” No-one would ever have those experiences again, those rites of passage for young adults in the town.

Alison took his hand in her own. It was the least she could do with what they had left. “She won’t miss the hangovers.”

He tried to laugh, so she laughed to forget what could have been: a laugh to forget what they had done.

***

The benches overlooking the city at their old perch were as uncomfortable as Alison remembered.

“My memory is sound,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“My arse is cold. And numb. Just like I remember.”

He smiled and swung his arms over the back of the bench to the bag he’d hung behind them. “You were never prepared.” He pulled out their old, pink blanket.

“This was red on our first picnic,” she said. They were eleven when they went to Kubrick Park, his mother sending it with him on their first parent-free trip to the sea.

“My mother washed a lot of beer out of it,” he said. “She complained but I was never in too much trouble.”

“Remember when Flubs wore it like a toga?”

“When he said he was Moses and tried to part the waters?”

“What would possess him to jump into sewage…” She smiled remembering Flubs’ plan to woo Jasmine. He didn’t know it was raw waste he was leaping into. Of course Alison hadn’t pointed out that smelly problem when he explained his idea to her.

“Jasmine Sutch possessed him. She wanted to study archaic religions and he spent a week reading their books. He thought screaming about Moses and acting out miracles would impress her.” Alison pulled the blanket over herself. She’d already known all that, but it was nice listening to him reminisce so freely.

“Would you prefer to be him?” She asked.

“Convicted of war crimes? Of playing a part in genocide?” He rose up like the times he testified before the courts: like when he’d dragged her to protests to face off against the Blackshirts. “I tried to stop it, and couldn’t, and now look at what’s about to happen.”

“I mean he’ll be left live.”

“He’ll be a shell,” he said. “Three months immersion leaves you a husk.”

“But he’ll have a life.”

“After three months of torture? It’s designed to punish with a bare, tormented existence. Every time he closes his eyes he’ll live through a death. Then he’ll wake to face a different death in every day.”

“How can the Council justify it?” Alison asked.

“The same way we justified wiping out the Destin,” he said.

“You fought it!” She didn’t really want to get into it. There was nothing new to be said. The time to learn had passed, and hope had passed with the Council’s verdict.

“Could you have predicted it? Seen what he-- What we all would become?”

“No.” He pulled the corner of the blanket over his lap. “No-one could predict what we became, but we all stood by while it went that way.”

“I believed you when you fought,” she said. “I always did.”

“You believed me when I said I’d been selected as the youngest ever Council Envoy.” She laughed, taking any attempt to forget their fate now just an hour away.

“You were smart! Of course I believed you”

“I was eighteen, and I wrote letters to newspapers. Letters with big words, passion and no understanding.”

“I did believe in you,” she said. Ten years ago he would have laughed at her. Five years ago he would have argued that she had to do more. Now he looked at her with a calmness he’d denied himself for so long.

“I always wanted you to—”

“I’ve always wanted to be with you,” he said. He looked her in the eyes and turned his body towards hers. She thought of the years spent watching him with other people, remembered all the nights catching each his gaze as he danced with short-lived girlfriends, and in that moment he made her forgot the world would soon end.

***

Alison checked her watch. They had ten minutes left after their half hour: thirty minutes they’d waited fifteen years for. It was worth it but they could have said so much in that time.

“Do you think it could have been different?” He asked.

“You mean us? Or the war?”

“I mean do you think there was a point when everyone changed? When it was lost?”

“When we decided we were good no matter what,” she said. “Attacking during the Christmas Truce wasn’t just simple war. That’s when we gave up. When we thought of no-one but ourselves.”

“We could have left, before college, before they began campaigning against our neighbour systems,” he said. “We could have left their hate behind.”

“You wanted to fight them,” she said. “And you had a daughter.” She didn’t blame him for thinking of what could have been. For believing he could have washed it all away by starting somewhere new. If she’d had the means she would have abandoned this hateful hole of a planet that wiped out billions during a holiday truce.

She looked at her watch again. “The bombs will start falling in eight minutes.” Earth’s time was almost finished: punishment for their three year holocaust.

“Do you think it could have been different?” He asked. “If we—”

“Yes,” she said. “It could have been different. If we all were different.”

She brushed his hair with her cold hand, pushing it over his ear.

The sirens howled with a warning that would save no-one.

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Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Erogenous Beef posted:

This appears to be a typo. Actual wordcount is 1150 according to Google Docs.

Aye, 1,150 words. Typo'ed due to an early Christmas morning and not having taken my cold medication yet. I wouldn't make anyone read an extra 350 words on this most joyous of days. Even if they desperately need an excuse to escape their family.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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